ANZ’s Chinese grand slam

ANZ's and Jacobs Creek's ability to connect with millions of Chinese viewers at the Australian Open highlights the immense potential for Australian brands to tap the world’s largest consumer market through sports.

Graph for ANZ’s Chinese grand slam

Pedestrians walk past a billboard of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) in Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone in Shanghai. (AP photo)

Hats off to the ANZ Bank and Jacobs Creek marketing executives who have managed to change their advertising signage to Chinese just in time for Li Na’s historic Australian Open win at Melbourne Park.

A beaming Mike Smith, who presented the Australian Open trophy to Li at the award ceremony, said it all. He has a lot to be happy about: thanks to the live broadcast, an estimated 70 million Chinese viewers have now been exposed to the ANZ brand, many for the first time.

Chinese sports journalists also noticed the advertising change along with the fact that ANZ’s ATMs at Melbourne Park are Chinese language enabled. These stories have appeared on some of China’s largest internet new portals including Sohu, Sina and What a marketing coup for ANZ.

The bank has been using sports – especially tennis – to reach out to its most important Asian market under its super-regional strategy, which is slowly but steadily paying dividends. ANZ Bank has been a diamond sponsor at Shanghai Masters since 2012.

The bank’s brand value gained almost $300 million in 2012, an increase of 10 per cent from the previous year. Core to its growth is a coherent Asia-Pacific strategy and its success in its customer-centric commitment to “live in your world”, according to a Brand Finance report.

The Australian Open sold more than 4700 tickets to Chinese visitors this year, up 82 per cent from the previous year thanks to the allure of Li. The organiser has also signed agreements with seven Chinese travel agencies to promote the tournament.

Li’s historic win highlights the power of sports in opening the door for Australian businesses to the world’s largest consumer market. Australia, a sporting superpower, is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this burgeoning opportunity.

The Australian Football Federation, chaired by Westfield’s Frank Lowy, sees football as a great platform to promote Australia, especially through the forthcoming 2015 Asian Cup, which is likely to draw hundreds of millions of viewers.

In a submission to the former Labor government’s Asian Century White Paper taskforce, the AFF highlights the potentially “immense” benefits for Australia and Asia though football: “They range from hard benefits, such as improved trade relations and deal-making, to the softer benefits of strengthened personal relationships, understanding and trust.”

The federation outlines the attractiveness of football to Asian – and especially Chinese – viewers. The English Premier League regularly attracts viewership in China in the range of between 100 million and 360 million viewers. A quarter of a billion Chinese watched the 2004 AFC Asian Cup final between China and Japan.

The rise of football in China is also a story of the rise of the middle class, which can afford to spend greater amounts of disposable income on leisure activities such as sports. By the end of this decade, China’s middle-class population is expected to total 700 million.

The AFF has also urged both government and business to take advantage of the popularity of Australian football stars who play for Chinese clubs in promoting the country, citing the example of Joel Griffiths, an A-League superstar who played in China for five years.

“Joel Griffiths is a big star. To the public in Beijing, he is as big as Nicole Kidman in terms of famous Australians,” Benjamin Chow, co-chair of the New South Wales Liberal Party Chinese Council told Premier Barry O’Farrell during a visit to China. “In my opinion, using Joel Griffiths to promote the 2015 Asian Cup to Chinese tourism interest makes a lot of sense,” he said.

Similarly, Chinese companies in Australia are also using sporting sponsorship to promote their own brands. One of the most high-profile case studies is Huawei’s sponsorship of the Canberra Raiders. The deal is the first global sporting sponsorship for the Chinese technology giant, which derives 70 per cent of its sales from the international market.

Hisense, a Chinese consumer electronic goods company, has also been quietly sponsoring the Hisense Arena where Li Na won her first Australian grand slam. The company said on its official Weibo (Chinese micro-blog) account, “You have persevered for three years and we have waited for seven years.”

Hisense signed the sponsorship deal back in 2008. It cheekily asked its followers on social media whether it should renew its sponsorship in April when it expires. Most of the responses were positive.

Australians love sports and understand how to mix business with pleasure. There is a myriad of business and cultural opportunities for Australia and China to exploit in the sporting field. It is a shame that the Abbott government has shelved the football federation’s excellent submission; it is worth a good read.

Follow Peter Cai on Twitter: @peteryuancai

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